5 Tried-and-True New Donor Retention Strategies - Heller Consulting

5 Tried-and-True New Donor Retention Strategies

When it comes to new donor retention, we have good news and bad news. Let’s start with the bad news: According to research from Dr. Adrien Sargent, over 70% of new nonprofit donors never come back and make another gift. 

However, the good news is that improving your donor retention rate is well within your organization’s grasp. There are plenty of tried-and-true strategies that nonprofits have benefited from for years to strengthen their donor retention and build an engaged donor base. 

We’re going to cover five of those strategies in this post: 

  1. Personalize your outreach. 
  2. Call donors to thank them. 
  3. Highlight the impact of donations. 
  4. Offer exclusive opportunities. 
  5. Send satisfaction surveys.

Essentially, comprehensive donor stewardship is the key to improving your nonprofit’s retention rate. When donors feel appreciated by your organization and see how their contributions make a difference, they’ll be more likely to continue donating to your cause. Let’s take a closer look at a few effective strategies to add to your stewardship plan. 

1. Personalize your outreach. 

Personalized outreach is much more engaging and meaningful for donors than a one-size-fits-all approach. Think about it—would you rather see a generic email titled “Dear Donor” in your inbox, or a message that addresses you by name, references your specific contributions, and highlights personalized engagement opportunities? Personalized messages captivate donors and show them that you’ve been paying attention. 

The donor data you’ve collected about your supporters will be crucial to personalize your messages to them. NPOInfo recommends tracking donor data such as: 

  • Names
  • Donation amounts and last gift date
  • Relevant engagement opportunities
  • Past events or volunteer opportunities donors have attended

You can gather this information using tools such as your online donation form, email marketing platform, and event management system. Ensure these tools integrate with your nonprofit’s CRM so that you can seamlessly transfer data into your donor database. 

Make sure your team creates some data hygiene policies to follow to establish organized and accurate data habits. For example, standardize how you enter information such as donors’ email and home addresses. 

With an accurate, clean donor database, you can gain access to reliable data that you can use to personalize your donor outreach emails, letters, phone calls, and other interactions like creating suggested donation amounts later on. 

2. Call donors to thank them. 

Calling donors adds a personal, unexpected touch to your new donor stewardship efforts. Plus, calling donors within a few months of their donation can go a long way toward retaining them for the long haul. 

According to a Bloomerang study, donors who received a phone call within 90 days of their donation were 42% more likely to be retained than those that did not receive a phone call. That percentage jumped to 58% if the donor received two phone calls in comparison to no phone call. 

Use what you know about donors to initiate more personalized conversations in your phone calls. For example, you can thank donors for their specific donation amount and reference the date of their most recent gift. Or, you can ask donors about their participation in a recent volunteer opportunity. 

The more you can learn about your donors, the more natural and engaging your conversations will be. 

3. Highlight the impact of donations. 

According to the Millennial Impact Report, Millennials are motivated to give because they believe in a compelling mission, and 90% would stop donating if they distrusted the organization. Since Millennials are the largest generation in the workforce—and likely an important audience segment for your organization—it’s important to appeal to their interests by showing them how their support impacts your mission and cause. 

Provide ongoing updates about how you’re using donations to further your mission. For example, let donors know that the $25,000 they collectively contributed during your last campaign allowed you to break ground on your new community playground. Be specific and transparent with updates to show donors how you’re using your funding. 

Be sure to place donors at the center of your impact stories. Let donors know that you couldn’t complete your mission without their help by saying something like “Your generous donations helped raise the funding necessary to break ground on a new community playground. Because of you, children in our community will have a safe place to play.” 

4. Offer exclusive opportunities. 

When creating a positive donor experience, it’s helpful to provide donors with engaging, interactive opportunities that help them strengthen their connection to your organization. Creating exclusive, donor-only opportunities can make supporters feel like members of a special club.

Consider providing your donors with exclusive opportunities such as: 

  • Invitations to exclusive events. Invite donors to fun and valuable events such as a panel discussion with experts from your nonprofit’s cause area, networking opportunities to meet with their fellow donors, or appreciation galas. Go above and beyond with your event planning by planning a special surprise or offering attendees goodie bags or other prizes throughout the event. 
  • Invitations to join your membership or monthly giving club. Give donors the opportunity to increase their level of support by joining your membership or monthly giving program. Highlight the benefits of joining your recurring giving program, whether it’s access to free publications, merchandise deals, or exclusive member events. 

By offering donors exclusive access to fun events and other perks, you can provide them with something valuable in exchange for their donations. This can make them more likely to continue engaging with you and supporting your cause. 

5. Send satisfaction surveys.

Sending donor satisfaction surveys achieves two goals. First, it shows donors that you value their input and want to make changes that create a better experience for them. Second, it helps your organization optimize its donor experience to better steward your current and future donors. 

However, when creating donor surveys, it’s important to ask the right questions. Your questions should be specific and direct. You can use a combination of multiple-choice, scale-based, and open-ended questions. 

For example, here are a few effective questions to ask donors: 

  • How did you find out about our organization? 
  • What influenced you to give to our cause? 
  • On a scale of 1-10, how convenient was the donation process? 
  • What could we do to make the donation process more convenient? 
  • To what extent do our nonprofit’s mission and vision align with your personal values? 
  • Are there any aspects of our organization you’d like more information about? 

Send survey respondents a follow-up message recapping the trends and patterns you identified within the survey results and how your organization plans to incorporate their feedback. This shows respondents that you’re actively listening to donor feedback and working to address their comments. 

These strategies can be the bread and butter of your donor stewardship efforts, providing a stronger foundation for your retention strategy. By treating donors as individuals and inviting them to get involved with your cause on a deeper level, you can build an engaged community of loyal supporters. 


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